Alaska Governor Says State Needs More Oil Drilling to Pay for Climate Change Damage

Okay, then.

Alaska's Gov. Bill Walker has interesting ideas about how to fund his state's global warming problem. Becky Bohrer/AP

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This story was originally published by Slate and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Yep. In an interview with the BBC’s Matt McGrath, Alaska Gov. Bill Walker just made perhaps the most remarkable statement I’ve ever encountered.

“We are in a significant fiscal challenge. We have villages that are washing away because of the change in the climate,” Walker said. Relocating these villages is proving to be “very expensive,” he continued.

McGrath asked, “So you’re saying that given the climate change impacts in Alaska, you need to be allowed to continue to drill and explore and produce oil to pay for some of those impacts in Alaska?”

Walker’s response: “Absolutely.”

The response on Twitter was immediate and harsh, especially from climate activists:

Unfortunately, this is the situation we find ourselves in as America trends toward petrostate politics. As the Hill notes, Alaska has no sales or income tax and derives a significant portion of its revenue from fossil fuel production on public lands. In a very real way, the recent dip in oil prices has hit the state hard—just as climate change impacts have begun to intensify. In one particularly stark example, although this year’s wildfire season was a record-breaker, the state had fewer resources with which to attack the blazes due in part to budget cuts linked to lower oil prices.

The situation has grown still worse in Alaska in recent weeks: In late September, Royal Dutch Shell suddenly announced it was abandoning plans to drill offshore of Alaska’s northwest coast after it failed to locate oil in any meaningful quantities during its controversial exploration this summer. As McGrath notes, that oil may have given a boost to the flagging Trans Alaskan Pipeline, now just one-quarter full due to flagging production on Alaska’s North Slope. Without oil as a reliable income source, Alaska’s politicians have begun a tough look inward to re-envision their state’s future. Apparently, that reality check hasn’t yet reached the governor’s office.

Alaska is America’s front line on climate change. What’s happening there is, in many ways, a preview of what the rest of us are in for should the world continue on something resembling the worst-case scenario path. Let’s hope when that time comes, politicians in the Lower 48 won’t be quite so shortsighted.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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